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What is brown’s complementary color?

What is brown’s complementary color?

Complementary colors are color pairs that are located directly across from each other on the color wheel. When paired together, they create maximum contrast and reinforce each other. Understanding color theory and how to use complementary colors is an important skill for artists, designers, photographers, and anyone who wants to create visually striking compositions.

In the RYB (red, yellow, blue) color model, the complementary color of brown is blue. On the standard 12-part color wheel, brown’s complement is a vivid cyan blue. When placed next to each other, these opposite colors look particularly bright. Using blue to complement brown can be an effective way to add visual interest and vibrancy to a design.

Defining Complementary Colors

Complementary colors (also called “complementary hues”) are any two colors located directly opposite each other on the color wheel. For example, red and green are complements, as are yellow and purple. When complementary colors are combined in the right proportions, they neutralize each other and create a gray scale. However, when placed side-by-side, they create the strongest possible visual contrast and make each other appear more vibrant.

The Color Wheel

To find complementary colors, it’s important to understand the structure of the color wheel. The basic color wheel consists of 12 hues based on the RYB (or subtractive) color model. The primary hues are red, yellow, and blue. Secondary hues (orange, green, and purple) are created by mixing adjacent primary colors. Tertiary hues are created by mixing a primary and secondary color.

On the color wheel, complements are located directly across from each other. Red’s complement is green, yellow’s complement is purple, and blue’s complement is orange. When looking at the color wheel, these color pairs form a line through the center point.

Brown on the Color Wheel

Brown is considered a tertiary color on the RYB color wheel. It is made by mixing the primary colors red and yellow. Brown sits between the orange and green hues. Its complement is located on the opposite side of the wheel between the blue and purple hues.

Finding Brown’s Complement

To find brown’s exact complementary color, imagine a line drawn from brown through the center of the color wheel. This line hits the color wheel on the opposite side between blue and purple. The complement of brown contains strong elements of both blue and purple.

The resulting hue is a vivid cyan blue. Some specific shades of blue that are complements to different brown tones include:

– Cobalt or French blue
– Cerulean blue
– Cyan blue

When paired with brown, these bright blue tones create a striking color contrast. The warm, earthy quality of brown is intensified by the cool, icy tone of its blue complement. Using blue detailing, accents, or backgrounds helps brown feel richer and more vibrant.

Color Palettes with Blue and Brown

Some examples of blue and brown color combinations include:

Blue tone Brown tone
French blue Chocolate brown
Azure blue Sepia brown
Electric blue Russet brown
Cerulean blue Chestnut brown

While bright cyans and blues have the strongest visual contrast against brown, softer muted blue tones can also work well. Combining dusty blues with tan browns or pale browns results in a more subtle, harmonious palette.

Some examples of muted blue and brown combinations:

– Powder blue + camel brown
– Sky blue + beige
– Steel blue + taupe

Using Blue to Complement Brown in Design

Here are some tips for using blue accents to make brown pop in graphic, web, and interior design:

– Use a vivid cyan on logos, headings, or call-to-action buttons against a chocolate brown background. This creates flashy contrast to draw the viewer’s eye.

– In a room with chocolate brown walls, add pillows, art, or area rugs in cerulean blue for contrast. The warm walls will make the cool blue tones feel bolder.

– Pair rich brown wood furniture with azure blue upholstery or decor pieces. The earthy wood grain and vibrant blue bounce off each other.

– On a website, use brown for large neutral backgrounds and blue for important clickable elements like links or buttons. This helps guide the user’s eye.

– In marketing materials, use blue in graphs, charts, or data visualizations against a sepia brown backdrop. The blue data will stand out clearly.

– In food packaging, use chocolate brown backgrounds with accents of electric blue. This eye-catching combo tempts appetite appeal.

Benefits of Blue and Brown Combinations

Pairing brown with its blue complement offers many advantages:

– Creates a classic, timeless color combination
– Offers strong visual contrast for impact
– Makes both colors “pop” more than if used separately
– Attracts viewer attention, incites appetite appeal
– Communicates dependability paired with vibrancy
– Works in literally endless color combinations

Whether you prefer bright, vivid hues or prefer softer muted tones, brown and blue rarely disappoint. Understanding how to use complementary colors is key to creating aesthetically pleasing and impactful visuals.

Other Complements of Brown

While blue is the primary complement of brown, depending on the brown tone, other hues can also serve as complements.

Some examples:

– Orange can complement muted browns like beige, tan, or sand
– Violet complements reddish-browns like rust or mahogany
– Chartreuse green complements yellowish-browns
– Pink complements grayish-browns like taupe or clay

Adjust the saturation and brightness of these hues to find the perfect complement to your specific brown shade. Adjacent colors on the wheel, like blue-violet or blue-green, can also work well as brown complements.

Color Psychology of Brown and Blue

In color psychology, brown and blue convey very different meanings. Together they create an interesting dichotomy.

Brown suggests:
– Earthiness
– Reliability
– Simplicity
– Nature
– Neutrality

Whereas blue implies:
– Openness
– Tranquility
– Calm
– Coolness
– Wisdom

This makes blue the perfect foil to neutral, earthy brown. It adds a refreshing cool calmness. Blue’s association with knowledge also complements brown’s grounded simplicity.

Different shades of blue and brown offer further nuances:

– Light blue + light brown = Airy, carefree
– Dark blue + dark brown = Classic, traditional
– Vivid blue + muted brown = Energetic, friendly


Brown’s complementary color on the traditional RYB color wheel is a vivid cyan blue. When paired together, these opposites create strong visual contrast and energize one another. While bright blues offer the most “pop,” muted blues can also complement and enhance brown attractively.

Using blue strategically against brown backgrounds, in graphs or charts, or in accent pieces helps draw the eye while communicating a balance of dependability and vitality. The timeless combination of brown and blue should be part of every designer’s toolkit for crafting compelling color palettes with impact.